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Supporting Caregivers After Trauma

Traumatic injury impacts the family members in many ways similar to that of the patient. A caregiver is anyone who provides help to another person in need, such as an spouse or partner, a child or a close friend. 

Caregivers help their loved ones in many ways after injury. It includes concrete tasks, such as setting up the home to be accessible by a wheelchair, arranging for home care and equipment rentals and taking time off of work to help their loved one recover. 

Caregivers also often assume the role of "case manager" for the patient — coordinating medical appointments, paying bills and taking care of insurance and legal paperwork.

Caregiving Is Rewarding…

For many people, being there and providing support for loved ones in their time of need is fulfilling.

Caregivers are patient advocates! You can help your loved one by taking notes and writing down questions for the care team and share updates and information with family and friends.

...Experiencing Stress Is Common

It is natural to feel angry, frustrated, tired or sad, especially if there is a shift in roles (for example, a child now helping to care for an injured parent).

As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you put your own health and well-being aside. 

Caregivers should always remember the oxygen mask rule: “Place your oxygen mask first before helping others.” 

Signs You May Be Experiencing Caregiver Stress:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired often
  • Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

Remember, You Are Not Alone.

There are many resources available to you as caregivers and strategies for dealing with stress.

  • Ask for and accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For example, a friend or family member may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries or cook for you.
  • Focus on what you are able to provide. There is no “perfect” caregiver. Know that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
  • Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.
  • Get connected. Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping may be available.
  • Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
  • Seek social support. Try to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it is just a walk with a friend.
  • Set personal health goals. For example, set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. Many caregivers have issues with sleeping. Not getting quality sleep over a long period of time can cause health issues. If you have trouble getting a good night's sleep, talk to your doctor.
  • See your doctor. Get recommended vaccinations and screenings. Make sure to tell your doctor that you're a caregiver. Don't hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.

Some Resources For You To Explore:

Family Caregiver Alliance: The FCA provides support, information and tools to manage the complex demands of caregiving.

National Center for Victims of Crime: This website helps survivors and families find local assistance, learn about crime and its effects and browse resources to help victims of crime to rebuild their lives. | 202-467-8700

National Alliance on Mental Illness of North Carolina (Family Support Groups) | HELPLINE: 1-800-451- 9682

Al-Anon Family Groups: Al-Anon offers resources and support to family members and friends of someone who struggles with problems drinking or substance abuse. | 757-563-1600 | email: wso@al-anon.org